Executive coach and author Alonzo Kelly (center) gave a presentation on the power of diversity and inclusion. Visit the
State Bar’s Facebook page for more photos of this event.
June 22, 2022 – For the first time in three years, judges, lawyers, and other legal professionals gathered in person last week in Lake Geneva for the State Bar of Wisconsin’s
Annual Meeting and Conference (AMC).
The State Bar’s Board of Governors kicked off the three-day event on June 15 with its
final meeting of FY2022. In a ceremony held that evening, Margaret Hickey was
sworn in as the 67th president of the State Bar.
Following opening day, AMC hosted nearly 30 sessions, a legal expo, and numerous featured speakers, including
Dr. Sharon Meit Abrahams,
Megan Phelps-Roper, and
U.S. Supreme Court Litigator Paul Clement, and
CNN Senior Legal Analyst Laura Coates.
COVID and Legal Recruiting
Dr. Meit Abrahams, a legal talent expert with three decades of experience working with law firms, delivered the opening plenary.
Meit Abrahams led a panel discussion with three legal talent professionals – one each from a law firm, a corporation, and a government agency.
“COVID has changed the way we practice law, changed the way people come to work, it has changed the way people show up as themselves,” Meit Abrahams said. “It has actually changed the way we recruit.”
Dr. Sharon Meit Abrahams, a legal talent expert, led a panel discussion on the challenges of legal recruiting during the COVID pandemic.
A Change of Heart
Author Megan Phelps-Roper gave the luncheon plenary on June 16.
Phelps-Roper discussed how her use of Twitter sparked an awakening that led her to forsake her the Westboro Baptist Church, in which she’d been raised.
The small Kansas-based church adheres to a virulent homophobic and anti-Semitic theology and stages protests around the U.S.
Phelps-Ropers said while managing the church’s Twitter account and responding to critics, she found herself “learning a new story about my adversaries.”
The key to bridging ideological divides, Phelps-Roper said, is “to assume good intent, even with those you passionately disagree with.”
Author Megan Phelps-Roper shared lessons for bridging ideological divides.
Paul Clement, a Cedarburg native and one of the nation’s leading U.S. Supreme Court advocates, delivered the closing plenary on June 17.
Clement fielded questions from Marquette University School of Law Dean Joseph D. Kearney and University of Wisconsin Law School Dean Daniel P. Tokaji, as well as audience members.
Clement said that packing the Supreme Court, while constitutional, would be a bad idea. Clement also revealed that he wore a different Wisconsin sports team jersey during each of the five oral arguments that he participated in during the pandemic.
Between the opening and closing plenaries, conference goers attended sessions on appellate practice, succession planning, criminal law and procedure, legislative trends, succeeding in rural practice, and compassion fatigue.
Here’s a round-up of some of session that you might have missed. Watch
WisBar Marketplace for recordings of AMC sessions.
Paul Clement, one of the nation’s leading U.S. Supreme Court advocates, fielded questions from the deans of the Marquette University and U.W. law schools.
Appeals: Nuts and Bolts
Wisconsin Court of Appeals District IV Judge Rachel Graham said in crafting an appeal, lawyers should pay special attention to whether the circuit court judge has made a decision on the record the court of appeals can review.
“We get grievances that are not found in the record, and that’s an easy affirm,” Judge Graham said.
She also said appellate lawyers should not overlook the applicable standard of review. Additionally, said Judge Graham, a lawyer should ask whether the resolution of the issue on appeal really made a difference to his or her client.
“In a lot of our cases, we find an error but we find that it does not make a difference to the outcome,” Judge Graham said.
In an appeal, Wisconsin Court of Appeals District I Joseph Donald said, the record is everything.
“Make a record, make a record, make a record,” Donald said. “Otherwise … you’ll put together a really nice brief and you’ll get a summary disposition back.”
Wisconsin Court of Appeals District I Judge Joseph Donald makes a point during a presentation on appellate practice. Next to him is Wisconsin Court of Appeals District IV Judge Rachel Graham.
Incoming State Bar President-elect Dean Dietrich joined Alexis Garuz and Christopher Shattuck, the State Bar’s Law Practice Assistance Manager, to discuss ethical issues related to planning – and lack of planning – for succession.
“If you have type of a concern or dispute regarding the trust account and the handling of funds, do not deal with that yourself,” Dietrich said. “Seek assistance from Chris or ethics counsel or other counsel …Trust account violations are a very serious matter before the [Wisconsin] Supreme Court.”
Shattuck said he regularly receives calls about how to handle client files in the absence of a succession plan.
“I get a phone call from the surviving spouse, who’s not an attorney, and she says ‘I’ve got 40 years of files. What do I do with these?’” Shattuck said. “’Can I put them on the side of the curb?’”
Those calls are particularly troublesome, Shattuck said, when the deceased lawyer handled trusts and estates, because the files might contain original copies of wills, advance directives, or trust documents.
Legal ethics rules don’t apply to the non-lawyer spouses who survive a deceased lawyer, Shattuck said, “but people can be sued for anything.”
Incoming State Bar President-elect Dean Dietrich responds to a question about the ethics of lawyer succession planning. Next to him is Attorney Alexis Garuz.
Stacy Householder, director of leadership, training and international programs for the National Conference on State Legislatures, said states collected more tax revenue last year than projected in part because a jump in online spending meant a jump in online sales tax revenue.
Among the top issues for legislatures in the past year, Householder said, were how to spend federal stimulus money; how to spend surplus general fund revenue; infrastructure; and returning people to work.
Kenneth Goldsmith, the American Bar Association’s senior legislative counsel, said that despite popular perceptions about dysfunction in Congress, “when the cameras are off, people are working and they’re working on a bi-partisan basis.”
Goldsmith said one way in which the pandemic affected Congress was the senators and representatives spent more time in their districts hearing from constituents and less in Washington D.C. hearing from lobbyists.
“We [lobbyists] traded off the impact of in-person meetings for back-end data,” Goldsmith said. “We actually understand much better about how our members interacted and how that translated into a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ on particular issues.”
Stacy Householder, with the National Conference on State Legislatures, holds up prizes for a quiz that she gave during a presentation on national legislative trends. Next to her is William Raftery, with the National Center for State Courts.
Happy in Flannel
Three lawyers who practice in rural Wisconsin discussed the benefits of a legal career outside Madison or Milwaukee.
Deanne Koll said that building a successful practice is all about networking, which in rural areas requires more effort.
“The way I’ve survived 16 years in rural Wisconsin is finding the network of like-minded people,” Koll said.
Koll, who handles collections and creditor’s rights, said that she and a colleague founded a chapter of a statewide network of women bankruptcy professionals.
“And now I have this group of women that have the same practice stressors as I do, they’re all breadwinners in their family, they all have children … it just makes it easier.”
Dena Welden, a lawyer with the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, said that representing a tribe has presented her with opportunities sooner in her career than a law firm position in an urban area would have.
She also said that local governments in the Northwoods are desperate for assistant district attorneys, to say nothing of city and county attorneys.
“There’s opportunities for immediate experience, for immediate growth,” Welden said.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Ziegler addressed the conference before the Thursday morning plenary. Chief Justice Ziegler paid homage to Juneau County Circuit Court Judge John Roemer, who was slain earlier this month, and said that security for judges was a top priority for the Supreme Court.
On Friday, Kene Okocha, the Nonresident Lawyers Division representative to the State Bar’s Board of Governors, led a discussion with CNN anchor and senior legal analyst Laura Coates.
Okocha and Coates worked together in the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., the site of many of the scenes in Coates’ recently published memoir
“Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor’s Fight for Fairness.”
Coates told the story of how she was forced to turn a victim in one of her cases over to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement because he had a decades-old outstanding immigration warrant.
It was one of several experiences, Coates said, that convinced her that she could better advance the cause of justice by writing and working as a broadcaster.
Attendees: remember that some sessions were recorded and will be made available via webcast as part of your registration package.
Stay tuned for details about AMC 2023, which will be held at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.
Kene Okocha, the Nonresident Lawyers Division representative to the State Bar’s Board of Governors, led a discussion with CNN anchor and senior legal analyst Laura Coates on advancing the cause of justice.